The coronavirus has not reached epidemic proportions in U.S. communities. But some public health officials are calling for federal funding immediately to help public health districts prepare.
Julie Pryde, administrator at the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District and a member of the Illinois State Board of Health, said local public health districts across the state have been stretched thin for decades.
And many, especially those in rural areas, may not be ready to respond to local spread of the coronavirus, she said, because they only have a handful of staff.
“But when we have (a local epidemic), they’re going to be expected to be geared up and magically be able to have the staff to do this” on top of the rest of their public health duties, Pryde said.
The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District has an emergency fund to tap into if needed, Pryde said. But many other local health districts don’t.
That’s why she said she would like Congress to immediately increase funding at the federal, state, and local levels, so that agencies can to hire and train staff and purchase medical equipment to be ready.
The matter is urgent, Pryde said. The CDC now is warning that local coronavirus spread is no longer a matter of “if” but “when.”
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For that reason, public health officials are encouraging people to prepare for the possibility that the coronavirus could spread locally.
In the event people are exposed to the coronavirus, Pryde said people need to be prepared to stay home for an extended period. So she advises everyone who is able to stock up on enough food, liquids and medications to last two to three weeks.
“Should you get sick and need to be (home) for a couple of weeks, we don’t want you to have to go out to Walgreens or somewhere to get Advil because you forgot it,” Pryde said, “because then you risk exposing other people. If you’re sick and you don’t need to be in the hospital, we want you in your home.”
Pryde said the vast majority of people in China who got the coronavirus disease COVID-19 were able to recover without medical intervention, and it’s best to keep people out of the hospital whenever possible, to free up space for others with serious or life-threatening illness.
CU Public Health encourages people to help friends, family and neighbors stock up and prepare, to get the flu shot if they haven’t yet and to continue to follow guidelines from public health officials.
Christine Herman is a reporter at Illinois Public Media. Follow her on Twitter: @CTHerman